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NUJ demands Irish health boss lifts information ban

9 May 2011

The NUJ is calling on the boss of Ireland's Health Service Executive to lift a blanket ban on the release of patient information to the media. The directive announced by the HSE prohibits the release to the media of all information relating to the patients under its care, including those in hospitals.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretarty, said:

"This blanket ban, which was introduced at short notice and without prior consultation, is neither workable nor desirable."

Ian McGuinness, NUJ Assistant Organiser, had sought a meeting with the HSE, but the health organisation said only that it would respond next month to arrange a meeting. This response was condemned by the NUJ as totally inadequate.

Séamus Dooley said:

"The lack of urgency is indicative of the HSE's failure to understand the requirements of the media and may explain why such a decision was imposed in the first place.
 "We have been inundated with calls from newspaper editors and reporters complaining about the ban and the manner of its introduction. We are now calling on the chief executive of the HSE to take immediate steps to have the instruction withdrawn.
"Clearly there are rights to privacy, which must be respected, but a blanket ban on coverage is unacceptable. There are issues relating to the public interest which need to be discussed.
"The NUJ and other stakeholders, including the Irish Patients Association, should be consulted on a protocol governing the release of information in sensitive circumstances; we would seek this course of action rather than the heavy-handed approach adopted by the HSE."

Tags: , health service executive, press freedom, freedom of information, privacy